this column wasn’t conceived as a Mets column. The guy who had the idea is in fact a tennis fan. If I wrote about last night’s Tigers-Rays game, a 13-inning beauty which the Tigers won 8-7, it would be all the same to him. One of the many neat things about this game is, two bad teams can mix it up for a great game now and then, which is what occurred on Woodward Avenue in Detroit last night.
As good as that game was, It would be impossible for me not to write about last night’s game in the nation’s capital, after the theatrics there Monday afternoon. While it figured to be a good pitching duel, it had to be a sleeper after Monday’s high drama. Didn’t it? It almost was. After a weekend of controversy about his toughness or lack thereof, Mets’ starter Matt Harvey almost pitched his way out of town by giving a creditable impression of Monday’s Mets’ starter Jonathan Niese. The Nationals got off to a 2-0 start in the first, and after a David Wright home run in the top of the second they put a run up to make it 3-1. But the sixth inning was Harvey’s undoing. With nobody out a single, a walk and a fielder’s choice on what should have been a sacrifice bunt had Nationals on every base and nobody out. While Harvey struck out Monday’s grand slam hitter Wilson Ramos, that was the only out he would get that inning. Michael Taylor singled, which was bad enough, but Yoenis Cespedes overran the ball in center field. by the time the merry-go-round stopped spinning it was 7-1. TV sets clicked off all over the New York area, including the one where I write this column.
What happened next makes me glad MLB provides an archive so you can listen to a game if you missed the exciting bit. The top of the seventh started innocently enough-a Wright single, then two outs. Then the Nats’ pitchers committed the_ mortal sin, the big one, the unforgivable when you have a big lead. They started walking batters. Michael Conforto walked. Wilmer Flores singled Wright home. So it’s still 7-2. Even a home run only makes it 7-5. Pitching coaches get old before their time seeing sequences like this. Both Juan Uribe and Curtis Granderson walked. Granderson’s free ticket brought home a run. Now it’s 7-3 Washington. In came Drew Storen, the one time closer. Cespedes partially redeemed himself for his folly of an inning earlier by launching a bases-clearing double. 7-6 Nats. Storen proceeded to walk Daniel Murphy, uncork a wild pitch while Wright was up for his second time during the inning, then walk him. Finally he walked Lucas Duda, again with the bases full, tying the game 7-7. 3 hits, and count them six_ walks.
Addison Reed did for the Mets what no relief pitcher for the Nats had done Monday or yesterday-maintain order. Nationals manager Matt Williams turned to his hired gun, Jonathan Papelbon, brought in from the Phillies for games like this. All seemed well at first. He retired Conforto and Flores. Nobody on, two out, pitcher’s spot up. With September reinforcements the Mets had 37 men to work with. Maybe the least likely of them was the one Terry Collins summoned-Kirk Robert Nieuwenhuis (Pronounced New Win Hice.) Hitters try to keep their average over .200, which is called the Mendoza Line. Nieuwenhuis had spent much of his major league time trying to stay above .100. But his first ever major league home run in 2012 had been hit off the Washington Nationals. Was it karma? Did it just seem like a good idea at the time? Call it what you will, Captain Kirk was last night’s hero driving a Papelbon pill 424 feet into the Washington night. From there it was business as usual for Mets’ relievers Tyler clippard and Jeurys Familia. The Mets have won the first two of this pivotal series and now hold a six-game advantage over their nearest contenders. With both teams likely to spend September demolishing baseball’s 3 worst teams, the Phillies, Braves and Marlins, by the time the Nats come to Flushing in early October it could well be too late, and the Mets could be making travel arrangements for postseason play for the first time since 2006.
Requiem for a World Series Winner
I spend a portion of most afternoons hunting for likely subjects to put in this space. I had to pause when I saw a bulletin mentioning the death of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar. (that’s pronounced Wa Keen An Do Har for blind readers who are JAWS users.) Andujar broke in with the Astros in 1976, after 7 seasons in the minors. He was selected to the All-Star team twice as an Astro in 1977 and 1979, and once hit an inside the park home run to power his team to a win. He was sent to St. Louis where he picked up a World Series ring in 1982, winning 2 without a loss and pitching to a 1.35 ERA against the Brewers. They were such a hitting team they were known as Harvey’s Wall Bangers, for their manager Harvey Kuenn.
What Andujar is perhaps best remembered for is being ejected from game 7 of the 1985 World Series against the Royals. No player performing on the field in a World Series game had been ejected since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick in 1934. Players had been tossed by the umpires while sitting on the bench, but not actually guys in the lineup at the time. It would happen to another Cardinals pitcher, Danny Cox only two seasons later in the World Series against the Twins.
Diabetes took Andujar’s life yesterday at the age of 62. For me this is a sobering thought, since I was diagnosed with that illness in October, 2008. I believe Tom Hanks sent entirely the wrong message when he was diagnosed. He told David Letterman (who also has it,) and in doing so told a huge audience that diabetes is “No big deal.” Once you’ve got it, it is a big deal. At best, it means much more careful management of your diet than you might be used to. If that doesn’t work, it can mean as many as 4 daily injections. Even with those, diabetes still can take its toll. Ask a guy like me whose feet either tingle or give him shooting pains 24 hours a day. One way or the other, half the world’s diabetics have issues with their feet. My pain increases when I bend over, which led me to say goodbye to my last Seeing Eye dog two years ago. Many people lose their sight to diabetes, though I never had my sight to begin with. But other things can be lost to this disease. When Chicago Cubs star Ron Santo was alive, he would have said diabetes was a big deal. It ultimately took both his legs, though it was not the end of his broadcasting career. That fact is a testament to his toughness. Yesterday, Joaquin Andujar lost his battle with diabetes. R I P